If you've a mind to virtually disappear from the face of the earth for a week or so, this just may be the hideout you're looking for.
|Scenery around Evolène|
Everybody wants to see Zermatt and Grindelwald, but after that if they're a little curious they might find themselves in Evolène and suddenly realize that that was where they really wanted to be all along. They sought remote, authentic Swiss villages, but what they got with the gorgeous views and four-star hotels was tee-shirt shops and lots of folks from back home.
Of course, this French-speaking mountain hamlet, about a 25-minute drive from Sion, is not without tourists - hikers and climbers in summer and skiers in winter - but it is a much different breed of Swiss mountain town from the likes of Zermatt and Grindelwald.
Among the wooden, weathered, brown/black Valasian houses of Evolène, you'll find a simple hotel or pension, or perhaps a small chalet to rent. In the daytime you can walk mountain trails that range from easy to challenging, and in the evenings enjoy hearty mountain food and Valasian wine alongside grizzled locals at one of the town's cheery inns.
Evolène is also much less expensive than the famed mountain resorts. The top hotel in town charges about $80 for its best room, you can rent an apartment for as little as $175 per week and a small beer is less than $2.
The phrase "a village where time has stood still" is a travel-writing cliché usually used to describe places where millions have been spent on restoration. But in Evolène the phrase really applies. This town of 600 probably looks and lives very much today as it did 50 or 100 years ago. A different dialect is spoken, there are no designer shops or Michelin-starred restaurants and a bare minimum of places sell Evolène mugs and tee-shirts.
In summer, the weather is warm but not oppressive, cooling down at night. In spring and fall, days are cool and nights cold. In winter, of course, roofs and streets are piled high with snow.
Throughout the summer, women wear traditional garb and there are enough old characters hanging around to let you know there's something going on here besides tourism.
Evolène's best accommodations are at the rustic Hotel Hermitage, where the Queen of Holland once stayed during World War II.
The interior is wood paneled walls and ceilings, slate entryways, parquet floors, oriental rugs, stuffed birds and game, and plenty of antique knickknacks. The most pleasant space in the house is the inviting living room/sun room with its paneled walls and ceiling and expanse of windows on three sides.
Guestrooms, though in no sense luxurious, are comfortable and cozy. Ask for Number 16 under the eaves. There are no in-room telephones and the hotel does not have a restaurant though raclette and fondue are sometimes served to guests on winter evenings.
The café-bar of Pension d'Evolène, an old-fashioned inn with a few simple rooms to rent, is a hangout for locals and, by all reports, including our own, has the best food in town.
Just off the café is the small, slightly more formal, dining room. Cowbells and rustic wood cabinets adorn the walls. There are green and white tablecloths, cloth napkins and candles on each table.
The food is mainly plain country fare, well-prepared with the freshest ingredients. Expect to pay about $30 per person with dessert and wine.
Evolène Hotel and Restaurant Information
Hotel Hermitage, CH-1983 Evolène, tel. +41/027/2831232, fax 283 3212. Singles CHF 65 to 75, doubles CHF 110 to 130.
The "Hidden Treasures" series reports on places consistent with a philosophy of travel that seeks places English-speaking tourists seldom visit. For the most part, Hidden Treasures will be geographically defined; villages, towns, even regions. But a Hidden Treasure can also be a hotel, a restaurant, a gallery, a fountain, a vista, a country road, a museum, anything or anyplace, as long as it's worthy of your attention and is off the radar screen of most English-speaking tourists. Though some will be neither 'hidden' - a word that hardly applies to a town on every map of Europe - nor quite reach the 'treasure' level, we think you'll find all merit your consideration.